As a climate awareness advocate, it comes as no surprise to me that NASA and NOAA have both announced that 2015 was the Earth's warmest year in recorded human history, or since 1880. NOAA reports that "2015 is the Earth's warmest year by widest margin on record...the December combined global land and ocean average surface temperature was the highest on record for any month in the 136 year record".
I thought I would take this news as an opportunity to share with you the science that hooked me, forcing me to rethink my lifestyle, career, and focus in life.
It is only because of Earth's unique atmosphere that life can exist -- it regulates the Earth's temperature making it able to sustain life. When we burn coal, diesel fuel, gasoline, propane, and natural gas, we emit CO2 into the atmosphere. CO2 is a a greenhouse gas, which means it acts like a blanket that traps heat from the Sun. The more CO2 in the air, the thicker the blanket, the warmer the planet.
In the last 100,000 years, our Earth's atmosphere has had an average of 275 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide. Parts per million is the measurement of how many molecules of CO2 there are out of every 1,000,000 total molecules of air.
Right now, Earth has over 400 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere. It may not seem like a very big difference, but read NASA's reaction to surpassing the 400 ppm mark here to understand the significance.
A 2 degrees celsius temperature change on Earth is also what scientists describe as a tipping point -- the point of no return. Since 1880, our climate has changed 1.65 degrees celsius. Scientists agree why this change has taken place: human activity. We have been dumping larger amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere with an ever growing population, changing the chemical makeup of the thing designed to keep us alive.
And the warmer our planet gets, the narrower our opportunity gets for us to change the outcome for future generations.
So what does the future hold? Well, since we are sailing into an uncharted climate, it really is impossible to know. But we can already see a preview of what's to come:
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
If we want anything to be left for future generations, now is the time to change our habits and do everything in our power to help offset our global impact. Even if you don't have children, it just feels good to use less and live conscientiously. Educate yourself, be an advocate to others, reduce consumption, shop local everything, and vote for candidates who stand for clean energy and progress. The more involved the community is, the louder and stronger our voices will be.
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"It is slowly dawning on a great many of us that no one is going to step in and fix this crisis; that if change is to take place, it will be because leadership bubbled up from below." Naomi Klein